By Tracey Ingle
Last month I started telling you the story of John and Martha, and how they were able to afford the services they needed so John could live out his days at home. John suffered from memory problems, and increased aggression. Martha did as much as she could, but needed additional help. The VA Aid and Attendance benefit enabled John to attend a day care program several days a week to give Martha a break and time for errands. The benefit also made it possible to have someone help with his daily washing up and getting dressed since Martha was not able to do that for him any more.
Sadly, John passed away six months later. Martha remembers those six months with a big smile. During those months John was happy, safe and engaged. Martha was able to manage the home, get enough rest and spend quality time with her husband. Martha was able to have her “White Knight” with her.
Shortly after, Martha was feeling her own frailty and kept forgetting her medicine. She wanted to sell the house and move into a lovely new senior assisted living apartment. After all, the doctor said she shouldn’t live alone. The problem was, her monthly income was only $1,500 and the assisted living cost, $4,000 a month.
Martha again reached out to her VA accredited attorney for advice. Martha was able to get the Aid and Attendance benefit for herself. There is a benefit for surviving spouses of up to $1,056.75 a month. But Martha again had too much in assets.
After selling the house and paying off her bills, she had approximately $250,000. She really wanted to leave the house money to her children. Her attorney was able to put some of Martha’s money into a special trust for the children and grandchildren. She then qualified for the Aid and Attendance benefit. The $1,056.75 a month will help make sure her money lasts longer and there is a greater chance she can leave a modest inheritance to her children.
The veteran’s benefit application is very complicated. No one without experience should try it him- or herself. Besides denial of benefits, other consequences include delays in processing. Some delays have been over a year!
No one can charge for completing an application. Many elder law attorneys complete applications for clients for whom they are doing other work. There are also veterans service officers in each town and organizations in each state that will assist veterans with the application. (Check out Free Resources for Veterans in the article archives at www.fiftyplusadvocate.com/archives/980.)
It can’t be stressed enough that while gifting is allowed for tax and VA purposes, it is not allowed for Medicaid purposes. Most veterans may need Medicaid to pay for nursing home care someday. Veteransmust be careful to preserve their Medicaid eligibility. A qualified elder law attorney, accredited by the Veterans Administration can provide this guidance.
Your family needs a trusted advisor you can call for guidance in making wise decisions. You need someone who knows your family, its values and goals. You don’t want to manage a crisis situation with a new advisor. Developing a relationship with a skilled elder law attorney will give your family peace of mind.
Tracey Ingle is the Probate Puzzle Person and Principal of Ingle Law. She can be reached at 508-281-7900 or [email protected] or go online at http://www.inglelaw.com/. Archives of articles from previous issues can be read at www.fiftyplusadvocate.com.